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What’s a Bridal Portrait Session?

Bridal portrait sessions are common in certain parts of the country. Here's everything you need to know before scheduling yours.

bridal portrait

With all the hype surrounding engagement photos, you might be surprised to learn that there’s another photo op you might need to pencil in: the bridal portrait session. These bride-only photo shoots are tradition in the Southern U.S., and less commonplace elsewhere.

Are you considering a bridal portrait session? Here are the answers to some commonly-asked questions.    

What are bridal portraits anyway?

Bridal portraits are solo images of the bride in her wedding attire. These photos are taken by a professional photographer (usually the same one who will photograph the bride’s actual wedding) and frequently mimic fashion shoots, with the bride posing in classic, artful, and perhaps even fashion-forward and dramatic ways to showcase her wedding-day look—think of it as your very own America’s Top Model photo shoot (sans Tyra, sadly). These photos may be displayed at the wedding itself and/or in the couple’s and relatives' homes. Bridal portrait sessions are traditional in the South, so if your mother and grandmother took bridal portraits, it’s likely that they’ll expect you to do the same.

When is a good time to schedule my bridal portrait session?

A bridal portrait session usually takes place a month or two before the wedding day—close enough to the big day that a bride’s gown will be altered and ready, and far enough away that if the gown gets dirty or damaged during the shoot, there will be enough time to clean it. The goal of a bridal portrait session is that the bride looks as similar as possible to how she’ll look on her wedding day, so avoid making any major changes to your look in the time between the shoot and your nuptials. If you're staging your bridal portraits outdoors, you might also wish to pencil in a rain date in case of inclement weather. 

Who will be involved with my bridal portrait session?

Obviously, your photographer will be the main point person on your bridal portrait session—taking the photos, and later editing them and perhaps creating prints to be displayed on your big day. However, you’ll need to enlist a few other wedding vendors to ensure a successful shoot—and it’s important to factor these into your budget, as they’ll almost certainly incur added expenses. First, your wedding dress will need to be ready, so be sure your bridal salon or seamstress is aware of your timeline. You’ll also want to have your hair stylist and makeup artist on hand—this will be a great test run of your wedding-day hair and makeup looks. You may also wish to have your florist create a bouquet that you can hold during your portraits, similar the one you’ll carry on your wedding day. And if you would like to take your bridal portraits at your wedding venue, you’ll need to make sure it’s okay with them and work with their availability.  

Where do bridal portrait sessions take place?

Traditionally, bridal portrait sessions were held at a photo studio. Nowadays, brides are opting for more atmospheric outdoor photos, similar to engagement shoots. If your wedding venue allows, you might opt to have your bridal portrait session there. Otherwise, you can choose any favorite location—a local park, a garden, the city streets—even your own backyard.

Why do I need a bridal portrait session?  

As mentioned, bridal portraits are tradition in some parts of the country. Displaying your bridal portraits next to those of your mother and grandmother is a truly special experience—think about how happy your female relatives will be! Also, like engagement photo shoots, your bridal portrait session will help you get even more comfortable in front of the camera so you’re sure to slay your wedding-day photos, too. And it’s a great opportunity to try out your wedding dress, hair, and makeup before the big day so you can make any necessary tweaks. Perhaps best of all, taking your bridal portraits in advance will save you time on the big day so you can focus on those oh-so important photos with your sweetie, instead of the dramatic solo shots.